BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A week after Orrin and Orson West were reported missing, a child who had been living with them gave a statement saying he witnessed one of the boys die, and said the other later disappeared after a “loud thud” was heard one night, a prosecutor said.

That statement, along with interviews by other children who had lived with the brothers, sparked a lengthy investigation leading to murder charges against Trezell and Jacqueline West, prosecutor Eric Smith said during his opening statement as the couple’s trial began Tuesday.

Trezell and Jacqueline West are the adoptive parents of Orrin and Orson.

Smith said surveillance footage shows no one could have taken the boys from the Wests’ California City home on the night the couple reported them missing Dec. 21, 2020. Instead, the evidence will show Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3, died sometime in September 2020, he said.

Prosecutor Eric Smith presents his opening statement at the murder trial of Trezell and Jacqueline West. Photo by Eliza Green/The Californian

Their bodies have not been found.

“And ultimately,” Smith said, “the answer to the question of where are the boys will be answered: It’s that they’re dead.”

Defense attorney Timothy Hennessy, however, said this is still a missing persons case.

The Wests were charged because it’s easier for authorities to do that than explain how they can’t find the children, Hennessy said. He said police only interviewed a couple of the 41 registered sex offenders living in California City and didn’t follow up on a tip from a woman in Texas who claimed to have seen Orrin and Orson.

Also, he said, authorities have no explanation for a vehicle captured on surveillance footage leaving the area of the Wests’ home shortly before Trezell West called 911 to report the children were gone.

Trezell West listens as defense attorney Timothy Hennessy talks to him during the first day of trial. Photo by Eliza Green/The Californian

“This is a tragic accident is what the evidence will show,” Hennessy said.

Trezell West is represented by Hennessy and Victor Nasser while Jacqueline West is represented by Alekxia Torres Stallings and Fatima Rodriguez. Torres Stallings reserved her opening statement.

The Wests are charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, child cruelty, falsely reporting an emergency and conspiracy. Indicted in March of last year, they face life terms in prison if convicted as charged.

Jacqueline West listens to opening statement. Photo by Eliza Green/The Californian

The Wests had custody of six children, including Orrin and Orson. They have two biological children and also two other adopted children. All four will testify.

The eldest biological child was 10 at the time the boys were reported missing.

That boy said he woke one night to noises coming from Orrin while the family still lived in an apartment on Lotus Lane in Bakersfield, Smith said during his opening. He said his parents got to Orrin first, and they watched as his color faded, he vomited and died, according to the interview he gave Dec. 28, 2020.

His parents never called for medical aid, the boy said. Instead, they discussed keeping the death hidden, the child said according to Smith.

The Wests asked the child if they should tell somebody or keep it secret, Smith said.

“And what you’ll hear (through testimony), (the child) knew if they told somebody they would be taken away from their parents,” Smith said.

Orrin never made it to California City, and Orson was only there four days, according to the boy’s interview.

Smith said the child told an interviewer he heard a “loud thud” one night. Orson had been at the home the day before the thud was heard, the child said according to Smith. The next day Orson was gone, the child said, and he hasn’t seen him since.

He believed Orson was taken back to his grandmother’s house, the child said according to Smith.

The trial is expected to last into early June. For more details on Tuesday’s hearing, check out 17 News’ live-tweeting of the proceedings.